Student films selected for Detroit showcaseA scene from Canvassing the Soul

Student films selected for Detroit showcase

Two documentaries by Communication, Media, and Film students have been selected for the Detroit FREEP Film Festival’s Real Fresh Student Showcase.

Sara Grabauskas’s Canvassing the Soul and Carolina Di Grado’s Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Good will be screened at Cinema Detroit on Sept. 24, at 4 p.m., and online from Sept. 22 to 29.

The showcase spotlights the work of student documentary filmmakers from Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, as well as University of Windsor. Faculty representatives from each of the five schools nominated a total of 26 student films. From that group, a jury chose 10 shorts as representing some of the best documentary work from the region’s schools.

“I’m very proud of Sara and Carolina,” says film professor Nick Hector. “It’s an honour to even be selected by the University for consideration as they faced very strong competition here in Windsor. To make it to the final 10 alongside films from the Michigan universities is quite an achievement.”

Due to COVID restrictions, students in Prof. Hector’s course “Intermediate Documentary” worked as individuals or within their household bubbles rather than as part of a class team. The process began by creating a detailed production plan, covering all the bases. Students planned out what equipment they were going to use, and the locations where they were filming.

Students developed the list of questions to ask, if they were doing an interview portion, and developed the shot list needed for the B-roll footage that would be edited in. Finally, students went over the ethical standards and the COVID-19 protocol to make sure that everything was safe.

“Even though students were creating their own documentaries, we all had opportunities all throughout the process to show rushes, and different stages of assembly and give feedback to one another,” says Grabauskas. “Although COVID restrictions made it challenging, it was a rewarding experience to write, direct, photograph and edit the film.”

For Grabauskas (BA 2021), this documentary was her senior project. Her film is a classic documentary portrait of an artist, her grandmother.

“My grandma inspires me. She took up painting later in life,” she says. “I wanted to learn more about her journey to become an artist and the process behind it. The message is no matter your age, you are never too old to pursue your passion.”

Hector calls the resulting film visually elegant and cleverly constructed: “Rather than probe the superficial mechanics of the artist’s work, Sara probes the theme of the creative drive in the context of aging.”

The second showcased film is Di Grado’s Lookin’ Good, Feelin’ Good.

“Carolina’s work is a modern poetic/essay hybrid documentary. The film is shrewdly and respectfully reflexive in its visual representation of young women addressing issues of body image,” says Hector. “She manages to make a heartwarming and often funny film about a serious and important topic. That’s hard to pull off.”

Di Grado, a fourth-year student, recruited her roommates to be her interview subjects since they were already in the same COVID bubble.

“I had my initial ideas of where I wanted the film to go, but of course, depending on the answers of each of the girls, I would have to make adjustments to the arc of the story,” she explains. “But in the end, we actually got the result that I wanted and I'm extremely proud of the film.”

Fellow film student and close friend Liam Brownrigg Bartra came into the project after the end of the semester to help fine tune the film to be submitted to the festival.

.The film includes a paint sequence, shot in their living room because it had the largest window and largest light source, and the biggest space to fit four women together in the frame.

“We put the different colours of paint on plates on the floor and just covered the entire floor with plastic garbage bags so it wouldn't get dirty. I directed their body motions to flow better with the shots,” says Di Grado. “They painted their bodies as a visual metaphor to indicate women regaining control over their own image. It was a powerful and meaningful moment for everyone involved.”

The five-day Freep Film Festival is produced by the Detroit Free Press, Michigan’s largest news organization, in cooperation with its business and events arm,

Information and tickets for both in-person and virtual screenings are available on the festival website:

—Susan McKee

Alum's gourmet beef available through Catering ServicesAlum's gourmet beef available through Catering Services

Gourmet beef available through Catering Services

Connoisseurs will welcome the news that Catering Services has taken delivery of its first shipment of premium beef for sale to the university community. Alumnus Ryan Pearson (BSc 2019) operates the Pearson Wagyu farm near Comber. His cattle are grass-finished and produce heavily-marbled meat. He has arranged with Food Services to offer his beef for direct sale, as well as on catering menus.

“This is a high-end product that produces a superior dining experience,” says executive chef Paolo Vasapolli. “I think it will be a big hit with discerning clients.” Each 1-lb. box of local Wagyu ground beef sells for $20. To order, email

Mike McKay says Erie Hack provides shared solutions to shared problemsMike McKay says Erie Hack provides shared solutions to shared problems

Erie Hack competition looks to address the lake's most pressing problems

Erie Hack, a data and engineering competition designed to generate innovative technology solutions for some of Lake Erie’s most pressing problems, is now open for registration.

Since its inception in 2017, the program has leveraged the expertise of researchers, designers, engineers, developers, and creative individuals across the region to activate, cultivate, and accelerate solutions to the health of the lake.

The multi-month challenge is a collaboration among Cleveland Water Alliance and partners from Toledo, Buffalo, and Windsor-Detroit, including WEtech Alliance and Tech Town Detroit. This year’s event kicks off virtually September 21st.

Mike McKay, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) says Erie Hack provides shared solutions to shared problems, noting that one of the lake’s most challenging issues is dangerous algae bloom. These annual formations of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, result in discoloured or foul-smelling water, affecting both human and ecosystem health.

“The event is focused on trying to find solutions to the myriad of problems that plague Lake Erie,” Dr. McKay says. “While the focus is not solely on the algal blooms, that tends to be one of the areas people concentrate their efforts.”

He says that although the problem has been studied for more than two decades, the issue came to the forefront in 2014 when the city of Toledo issued a “Do Not Drink” advisory that lasted more than 48 hours and affected a half-million people.

The algae bloom had encroached on the city’s water intake and toxins had passed into the water supply.

“What you’ll see with Erie Hack is a lot of the teams looking to build early alert systems for these kinds of toxins or other contaminants in the lake to prevent another incident like the one we saw in Toledo. You’ll see some teams devising ways to actually remove the algae from the lake and transform it to a value-added commodity. But what we really need, and what we’ll see, is people trying to innovate agriculture, which really is the root source of the problem.”

Dr. McKay explains that runoff from the area’s many crop fields inadvertently feeds algae blooms.

He says that a number of teams from previous Erie Hack events have commercialized their products and formed small businesses. He is hopeful that events like these may lead Windsor to eventually find its place as ‘the water tech capital of Canada,’ and a leader in clean water technology.

Teams have until Sept. 20 to register by visiting: 

Counselling centre available to support student mental health

Reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength, says Mohsan Beg, executive director of the Student Counselling Centre.

The centre offers a range of supports for mental health and wellness, from informal drop-in groups to individual therapy.

“We are a professional staff of licensed mental health practitioners,” Dr. Beg says. “Just like you would go to a medical professional to help you heal if you had a broken bone, we are here to help you heal when you need it.”

He says the centre has been serving students facing a range of challenges, from anxiety and academic stresses to depression and severe mental illness. The pandemic and subsequent response measures have compounded these issues.

“COVID has closed a lot of the normal support activities, whether it’s hanging out with friends or working out at the gym,” says Beg. “All of us are experiencing isolation and exhaustion from the whole process. You don’t have to feel alone.”

He notes that the counsellors have specialized training in trauma-informed practice and the centre has been working to diversify: “We’re making an effort to make sure our staff reflects the campus population.”

The counselling centre is a safe space and its services are completely confidential. Beg suggests students consider the drop-in support groups: Racialized Voices Gather Together, COVID Care Conversations, and LGBTQ+ Drop-in Group.

“Just knowing you’re not alone and there is collective support for you can make a huge difference in our ability to cope,” he says. Other available supports include the Wellness Outreach Office and the My Student Support Program (MySSP), which provides free counselling 24/7.



The Master of Social Work for Working Professionals program is kicking off its Fall 2022 admission cycle with an exciting announcement: the program will now be offered in an online format.The Master of Social Work for Working Professionals program will now be offered in an online format.

Online MSW studies made possible for working professionals

The Master of Social Work for Working Professionals program is kicking off its Fall 2022 admission cycle with an exciting announcement: the program will now be offered in an online format.

Students are still required to attend scheduled virtual classes, but this change means that making the commute to the classroom will no longer be a challenge for those with full-time employment.

“In the past, we’ve had students that travelled for several hours — in all sorts of weather — to attend classes on campus,” says Tracy Beemer, program administrator for recruitment with the MSWwp program. “With this new format, we can expand our program to include students in remote communities across the province, while at the same time removing some of the stress of having to commute to campus.”

The MSW-Working Professionals program includes either one or two field placements, which must be completed in the province of Ontario.

“The mission of the School of Social Work is to promote social justice through quality professional education, advocacy, community partnerships, and the development and dissemination of knowledge through enquiry,” says Robin Wright, director of the School of Social Work. “Our goal is to provide students the opportunity to enjoy a fulfilling educational experience where they will embrace a leadership role in social work education and research becoming the social work leaders of tomorrow.”

The program is now accepting applications for Fall 2022. For more information, visit, or contact Beemer at